Living Lanterns (5) – Raise the Red Lantern
Today I bring you the film Raise the Red Lantern. I thought it would be a perfect film to feature with this week’s posts on “Living Lanterns”. Lanterns, as portrayed in this Chinese period film, were not only fixtures, they played a more intriguing role in the lives of the women in this “extended” family.
Plot Summary for
Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Da hong deng long gao gao gua (original title)
China in the 1920’s. After her father’s death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each of them living in separate houses within the great castle. The competition between the wives is tough, as their master’s attention carries power, status and privilege. Each night Chen must decide with which wife to spend the night and a red lantern is lit in front of the house of his choice. And each wife schemes and plots to make sure it’s hers. However, things get out of hand… Written by Mattias Pettersson
Raise the Red Lantern (simplified Chinese: 大红灯笼高高挂; traditional Chinese: 大紅燈籠高高掛; pinyin: Dà Hóng Dēnglóng Gāogāo Guà) is an award-winning 1991 Chinese-Hong Kong-Taiwanese co-produced film, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Gong Li. It is an adaption by Ni Zhen of the 1990 novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong. The film was later adapted into an acclaimed ballet of the same title by the National Ballet of China, also directed by Zhang.
Set in the 1920s, the film tells the story of a young woman who becomes one of the concubines of a wealthy man during the Warlord Era. It is noted for its opulent visuals and sumptuous use of colours. The film was shot in Qiao’s Compound in the ancient city of Pingyao, in Shanxi Province. Although the screenplay was approved by Chinese censors, the final version of the film was banned in China for a period. Some film critics have interpreted the film as a veiled allegory against Chinese communist authoritarianism. The film’s popularity has also been attributed to helping Chinese tourism after the government response to the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989.